I am grateful that Eirenikon has seen fit to link to my rambling trifles on the Fellowship conference. Many thanks.
I got home at about two yesterday morning, distributed the spoils of the St. Vlad’s bookstore to The David and The Daniel (who were good enough to pick me up at the airport at half past midnight on a Sunday), and went to bed. Then I was up at 7am to go to work, and, well… yeah. Sleep? What’s that?
A couple of other things to highlight about Met. PHILIP’s talk — Dr. Dmitri Solodow, a lay delegate of the OCA’s Metropolitan Council from the Diocese of the West, made the wry observation, “The liturgy unites us as long as it is in our native language.”
Met. Kallistos had a number of comments for his brother bishop, beginning by saying, “I agree with far more of what you say than I expected to!” (Always an encouraging thing to hear.) He concurred with Met. PHILIP that “[t]he defining characteristic [of a local church] is territorial, not ethnic[.]” In noting the that idea of the local church is the faithful in a given city gathering around their bishop to celebrate the Eucharist, he further observed that “the Eucharist is not an ethnic event.” A very humorous moment was when Met. Kallistos insisted that “we must not be canonical fundamentalists,” and Met. PHILIP replied, as if they were singing a psalm antiphonally, “Alleluia.” My favorite Met. Kallistos moment of the morning was when he reminded the room, “‘Committee’ is not a canonical word.” Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon ended the session by suggesting that administrative unity might have unintended consequences; he would not, for example, want to end up under a bishop who had no interest in evangelism, observing that the Romanian patriarchal cathedral in Chicago has really nothing to do with anybody else, and that he would just as soon remain under Bp. MARK.
Thursday continued with Bp. Keith Ackerman, a self-professed “cradle Anglo-Catholic” and ECUSA bishop of Quincy, Illinois. I think I have to post a couple pictures of him to truly convey why I was confused when I was told he was ECUSA — there’s this one:
And then there’s this one, showing him from the rear (just because that’s really the only other picture I have of him):
Get the idea? HIs Grace couldn’t be more Roman looking without a mitre. (Well, he mitre he might not.)
(Say it aloud and you’ll get it.)
(I’ll stop now.)
Anyway, he made several points which I truly appreciated; an important one, I think, is that unification of outer order can never move faster than the growth of the inner life. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? To that end, he said, Eucharistic discipline — which, to him, includes fasting, prayer and meditation, and thanksgiving — is absolutely vital to unity, and because truth is the nature of the Church, unity of the “outer order” can only be achieved through doctrinal unity. (This is in remarkable contrast to the thoughts a later speaker, but I’ll talk about that when I get there.)
A very important point, I thought, related to the teaching office of the episcopacy; that is, “tactile succession” is not enough without orthodoxy.
He concluded by saying that we must be fully Catholic (and I don’t think I am misreading his intent for that to be an upper-case C), fully Orthodox, fully confessional, and fully renewed — and while I’m not sure I could put my finger on why I got this impression, but I rather got the sense that for him, Orthodoxy would be a no-brainer if we had our administrative house in order. It might very well be something that I read into his words, but I will nonetheless note that this was my impression.
Following Bp. Ackerman’s lecture, I was running around a bit. I was trying to touch base with Fr. John Behr, who had told me that morning, “Find me this afternoon and we’ll set up a time to talk.” Alas, we kept missing each other, and having plans in the city that night, I ultimately had to leave around 4pm to catch my train to Grand Central. (This also meant I was going to miss Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon’s talk (originally scheduled for the afternoon), but there wasn’t anything I could do about that at that point).
My previously mentioned friend Matthew Murray is a theatre critic and a Tony voter, so every time I’ve been in New York he’s made sure I’ve gotten to see something. My first time out it was Phantom of the Opera, and last time it was Fiddler on the Roof with Harvey Fierstein and Rosie O’Donnell.
Playing a married couple.
Let’s pause to contemplate this for a moment.
But I digress.
This time it was the current revival of Sunday in the Park with George, a production which dares to ask the question, “Is it live or is it PowerPoint?” Anyway, we arrive at the theatre, and I take notice of a very tall, bearded, and ponytailed man wearing a dress shirt and slacks standing in the doorway to the lobby, looking for all the world like an usher. And I think to myself, Wow, that guy looks a lot like Fr. John. No, really, it’s uncanny how much that looks like Fr. John. It could be his twin.
That’s Fr. John.
What in the world is he doing being an usher? Doesn’t he make enough money as dean that he doesn’t have to moonlight?
But then his wife walked up to him and they entered the lobby, answering that question very quickly.
I walked up to him, saying, “Fr. John?” He did a double-take when he saw me, chuckled, and said, “So, you decided to take the evening off as well, eh?” He introduced me to his wife, who said, “Oh, Richard Barrett? I’ve read your book, I think.” I assured her that she hadn’t. We were able to arrange to meet for breakfast the next morning (“Lunch and dinner usually finds me eating with bishops, so let’s do breakfast,” he said), and that was that. What were the odds?
It turned out that a friend of theirs had won the tickets in a radio call-in contest, had given them the tickets and offered to babysit. Sometimes you just want to think (and this was not the last time I thought this over the course of the conference), there are no coincidences.
The hierarchical Divine Liturgy the next morning was celebrated by Bp. Hilarion. Rather at the opposite extreme from Met. Kallistos, his homily was short and pastoral, reminding us that as Christians, we need the Holy Spirit for anything we do to be successful — it is not the priest who makes the sacraments efficacious, or the worker of any ministry for that matter who may take credit for it, but the Holy Spirit, period. To that end, he concluded, as Christians, we should always be praying that the Holy Spirit is with us. Short and to the point, but well worth hearing.
Talking with Fr. John was fruitful; we discussed how a St. Vlad’s education might prepare me for further graduate work, and he was very encouraging, even having a couple of concrete suggestions regarding areas of research I might think about given my interests, and how I might make them more marketable. As with everybody there, he was very approachable and easy to talk to; one remarkable thing he said was that it took him all of two weeks write The Mystery of Christ — when he finished writing the three volumes of The Way to Nicaea, he realized there was a whole underlying, unexpressed argument to what he was saying, and that he needed to get that down on paper as well.
The morning session was Fr. John Erickson’s talk, and I have to say I missed most of him; the pretense of “minimal impact” on the participation in the conference by us volunteers was dropped fairly quickly, and as a result there were a few sessions where I missed some amount of the presentation. I can’t complain — after all, they were doing us a favor, not the other way around. What I did hear was Fr. John suggestion that there might be a way for East and West to acknowledge each other’s differences as theolegoumena; he cited Pope Benedict’s oft-referenced statement that “Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium,” further saying that somehow the Orthodox could find a way to nuance Vatican I so that it was understood as a legitimate development for the West.
In response to a question about the possibility of redistributing the responsibilities of the Ecumenical Patriarch among several people, he gave the amusing response that “to be governed by a committee is worse than being governed by a tyrant.” I vote we have that printed on a t-shirt.
My friend Paul Bauer arrived during Fr. John’s lecture — I gave him a membership in the Fellowship as a Christmas present a few years ago, and he lives in New Jersey, so it was fairly easy for him to be there as a day participant.
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus gave the first of the afternoon sessions, entitled “Reconciliation between East and West: Eschatological hope and temporal urgency.” He was a wonderfully engaging speaker, and it was a boon to the conference that he could be there. He spoke of an “ecumenism of conversion,” saying that this is far more of what’s needed than the modern warm-and-fuzzy ecumenism. The modern ecumenical movement, he claimed, is quite dead, noting that where it is today represents a major decline from its status in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1965, he claimed, the National Council of Churches was the religious establishment in America, akin to Harvard University or the AMA — raising the question, at least for me, if that might not have been why it failed. He also told a story about Fr. John Meyendorff, who upon Ut unum sint being released, said “For a thousand years we have been waiting for a pope to say this, and the great tragedy is that we have not found a way to respond.”
Fr. Neuhaus also said a couple of things which I found troubling. First off, he said that the Catholic understanding of unity is full communion; fair enough, but I did not feel he adequately addressed the question of how doctrinal unity functions within this framework — that is, does doctrinal unity proceed from full communion, or vice versa?
He also spoke of the church having two aspects, communion and institution — but, vis-à-vis Bp. Ackerman the day before, where does the teaching office of the episcopate fit into that? Is orthodoxy part of the communion, or the institution? I wanted to ask him what he thought the proper relationship was between doctrinal agreement and full communion, but the Q&A was over by the time I was able to actually formulate the question.
Bp. Hilarion was next on the docket, speaking on “Catholicity in the Orthodox tradition.” His was a very basic lecture, in a lot of respects; all he did, really, was to lay out the Orthodox understanding of the episcopate and primacy in fairly irreducible terms. This was, however, given the nature of the gathering, a much-needed reminder of where we are, as opposed to where we might like to be. Catholicity is found in the local church, with the “universal” church as the totality of local churches. Characteristic of the local church is the presence of a single Eucharistic gathering presided over the bishop, who occupies the place of Christ in the Eucharistic assembly. There is not a single local church, he said, which has supremacy; a patriarch’s primary administrative role is to govern with the synod of bishops between council. In terms of a framework for reunion, he said, recognition of the primacy of Rome must be preceded by unity of faith. “We cannot simply invent an ecclesiology,” he said repeatedly.
My thought on this is that Bp. Hilarion, more than anybody else, rooted the proceedings very firmly in reality. For this reason I suspect he will not be remembered favorably by some of the participants, including some Orthodox, but much like Pope Benedict’s statement last year regarding the Christian bodies not in communion with Rome, I think it’s important that these things get said so that they may be dealt with directly and honestly. To put it another way, I think it might be important that we try to understand these kinds of statement prophetically rather than pessimistically.
That said, I was not always certain about what Bp. Hilarion understood in terms of questions from the floor. I asked what, in his view, the role of love was in the matter of primacy; he looked bewildered and said that love didn’t have anything to do with primacy. He recovered himself a little bit and said that he supposed that primacy was, ideally, exercised in love, but I still didn’t get the impression he understood what I was getting at.
The next speaker was Fr. Warren Tanghe of the Society of the Holy Cross, a “Catholic Anglican” group which grew out of the Tractarian movement of the nineteenth century. His lecture, frankly, was depressing; he painted a picture of traditional Anglicans being horribly marginalized (he used the word “outlaws” at one point), and on a ship which is sinking more and more quickly by the day. Still, he said, their belief is that as a “daughter church” of Rome, the proper order of healing requires the Anglican Communion to re-establish communion with Rome first, and to do so corporately rather than individually. To that end, he said, while he could not criticize those who have gone back to Rome (or to Orthodoxy) individually, his belief for himself at least was that he could not simply abandon his flock to the wolves. The question I wanted to ask was, “At what point do you have to change your mindset from not abandoning your flock to telling them they need to run for the lifeboats?” Feeling that would not be in keeping with the spirit of the conference, however, I asked it so that it had to do with the qualitative difference between returning individually and doing so as a body. His answer, it seemed to me, mostly restated the above, although he did say he wasn’t sure what his threshold would be for returning to communion with Rome as an individual.
After dinner was a panel discussion, with the panel consisting of (as pictured, in order) Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Prof. William Tighe, Bp. Ackerman, Archimandrite Kyril Jenner, Fr. Arnold Klukas of Nashotah House, Met. Kallistos, and Bp. Hilarion. Fr. Patrick opened by saying that, in terms of primacy, “Rome has it hands down.” The tombs of Ss. Peter and Paul are there, he said, and that has to mean something, even if there has to be some work to understand exactly what it means.
This really was met with very little disagreement; even Bp. Hilarion agreed that primacy is clearly Rome’s, it is simply a question of what that means. He quoted a friend of his as saying that the second and third Romes both fell, but the first one is still there, and that’s the reality we have to struggle to understand. Met. Kallistos put it this way — if Christ willed that there should be universal primacy in His church, it cannot be anyplace other than Rome. The question, then, is what kind of primacy, given that the definition as set forth in Vatican I is unacceptable to the Orthodox.
There were a number of genuinely moving moments during the panel; Fr. Klukas expressed that it was a relief as an Anglican to come to this gathering and find that the Orthodox have problems “just like us.” Bp. Ackerman appeared close to tears when he described the last time he was able to celebrate the Eucharist with Fr. Patrick before he became Orthodox, grabbing Fr. Patrick’s wrist as he did so.
An issue which came up during the panel was reception — to put it one way, how do we make the things we’re discussing here have an impact at the local level? When we speak of the various joint statements and conferences, are people at the parish level even aware that these things are happening? Met. Kallistos, in response to this question, asked how many of us had read either the Cyprus Anglican-Orthodox statement, The Church of the Triune God, or the Ravenna statement — and the reality was that maybe ten percent of us had done so. His point was, if even us highly-interested parties aren’t reading these statements, then we can hardly question lack of awareness at the local level, and it’s up to us to try to do something about that. I found that to be a very convicting thing to say, and my response was to order a print copy of The Church of the Triune God when I got back to the dorm.
By this session, Canon Jonathan Goodall had arrived, and was sitting in the front row. He made a statement that he felt that the proceedings seemed rather “anxious and North American,” and didn’t have as much bearing on worldwide Anglicanism as many might think. I spoke with him a bit afterwards; it turned out he remembered, and very well, meeting me on the streets of Oxford last summer, and it further turned out that he was an old school friend of my roommate’s. (This prompted my roommate to tell me, “There are no coincidences.”) Canon Goodall said that there is a problem with assuming that because certain problems exist in North America that they are representative of what’s happening in worldwide Anglicanism. “That just ain’t so,” he said.
Thus endeth the day. The report on Day 4 will come shortly.
By the way, I do exhort you all to listen to the talks, and to do so in order; I can’t (and do not set this forth as the aim) provide a transcript of the conference, and as such there are many important things which were said in the sessions which I won’t necessarily talk about here.